To Bee Honest…
Book: Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun
Author: Sarah Ladipo Manyika
Publisher: Cassava Republic
Year of Publication: 2016
Book Length: 118 pages
Font Type: Large
Random tidbit:The book gets its title from a poem Mary Ruefle’s poem “Donkey On”
Why Did I Read It? I first heard of the book and author while listening to BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. I was impressed by Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s desire to tell a different story. She talked about the fact that she had read a number of books about older people, mostly white men but had a harder time finding stories about older women of colour. I heard the report in October but decided that since she published with a Nigerian publishing house I would buy the book in Nigeria. Don’t question the logic.
Synopsis: Morayo Da Silva, a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman, lives in hip San Francisco. On the cusp of seventy-five, she is in good health and makes the most of it, enjoying road trips in her vintage Porsche, chatting to strangers, and recollecting characters from her favourite novels. Then she has a fall and her independence crumbles. Without the support of family, she relies on friends and chance encounters. As Morayo recounts her story, moving seamlessly between past and present, we meet Dawud, a charming Palestinian shopkeeper, Sage, a feisty, homeless Grateful Dead devotee, and Antonio, the poet whom Morayo desired more than her ambassador husband.
My Review: This novella is quick read and I finished it in about an hour. I love when books leave room for the reader’s imagination, this book delivered on that front. Sarah is masterful at raising questions and then comfortably walking away. I do not want to give any spoilers but if you don’t find yourself asking what happened to Morayo’s parents, there’s no help for you.
In the first few pages of the book, page 4 to be exact, Morayo in her internal dialogue utters the exclamation “Bother!” My first thought was, a Nigerian woman in her 70’s would never say this. Yet as the book develops you get the distinct impression that Moray would use words like that. Her experiences are vast ranging from boarding school in England and to living around the world as an ambassador’s wife. Morayo made me re-evaluate the idea of a “Nigerian woman” and the limits we consciously and unconsciously place on her. I am shocked at how quick I was to cast aspersions on the accuracy of Morayo’s character as a true representation of Nigerian woman.
I would not refer to Morayo as a delightful old woman. I believe she is far too complex for such a saccharine compliment. She is fascinating, charming, slightly eccentric and a character I would love to meet again or better yet meet in real life. For such a short book there are a number of themes, love, loss, travel, marriage, infidelity, etc. Three major themes I particularly enjoyed were: Books, Sexuality and the lives of secondary characters. I’ve added a couple of new books to my reading list, so pay attention to the book titles while you read. Her relationship with her books is also explored and provides some interesting insight to Morayo and the author. I found sexuality very interesting, partly because it is not overt like 50 Shades of Grey, but neither is it subtle like a Georgette Heyer novel. Rather it’s a mature and masterful discussion of sexuality. The secondary characters in this book are varied and nuanced. Sarah, lets all the secondary characters speak about themselves in first person which adds depth to the characters. Although, we don’t get to learn a lot about each of them, reading their narratives brought to mind the oft quoted phrase,”Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Finishing the book, I couldn’t help but reflect that one of the many privileges (and curses) of youth is that we rarely think about what it means to be an older person. When we think about them they are sources of wisdom, delicate people needing care,funny creatures who can’t work an iPhone or just downright annoying. Rarely do we think of them as multidimensional humans. It does seem ludicrous that I will become less of me the older I grow, so why do I think of older folks as one-dimensional ?
Read if you want
– Characters that are unexpectedly relatable
– A quick read and never boring read
– A book that will leave you with lots of questions for reflection
Where to Buy Online: Amazon.co.uk ; Amazon.com (April 17th) and Bookdepository.com
In Lagos: Terra Kulture bookshop